The Appointed Result of the Appointed Means

In this lesson we will revisit some of the texts from last week, giving a different emphasis to their application. We will close this lesson with a synthesis of theological ideas that provide the connecting sinews in this compelling look at God’s pedagogical interaction with Jonah and his surprising mercy to Nineveh.

The success of the Means God used with Jonah

The call – God could have sent an angel, but he wants those who have received mercy to be messengers that will result in mercy – 1:1-3

“The Word of the Lord came”

resented –  Assyria now demanding tribute from Israel [refer to last week]

resisted – A Pagan nation has no claim on God’s message or mercy, acc. to Jonah, but see Isaiah 19:19-25. God’s intention is for the salvation of both Egypt and Assyria according to this passage, and Jonah was called to bring the initial showers of this divine intention in the case of Assyria.

The storm and the sailor’s deliverance

“The Lord Hurled”

Lot Fell on Jonah” Proverbs 16:33  “The lot is cast into the lap, but every decision is from the Lord.” From the smallness of the lot to the largeness of the great fish, God does not abandon his control over his creation, his sustaining providence, or his purpose to use these in the display of his purpose of redemption.

Jonah’s confession led to their apparent conversion and their effort to salvage Jonah’s life. As we saw last week, this is the first in a pattern of wrath and redemption in this book.

God’s fury in the elements makes their attempt to keep Jonah safe impossible “The sea was becoming stormier.” No human contrivance in the face of divine justice can bring a guilty soul beyond the reach of the divine purpose, whether it be wrath or redemption.

Their acceptance of God’s sovereignty –“You O Lord have done as you pleased” Faced with the reality, even these heathen sailors, uninformed by the special revelation with which Israel was blessed, realized that this God that created the sea and the dry land could not be overcome. The sailors are delivered when the purpose of the display of divine pleasure is fulfilled. In this sense, though not to be pressed too far, Jonah becomes a type of Christ. Christ was cast into the sea of God’s wrath for our sake.

The Fish and Jonah’s deliverance

The Lord “Appointed.” We commented on the series of events that God “appointed” in the outline for last week.

Jonah recognizes that he has been rescued when he should have perished. Jonah’s God-given persuasion that he would be rescued comes even as he seems to be in a state of certain death in the invincible elements of the sea.

Verses 5 and 6 – After the knowledge that He would yet worship God alive in this life, things go from bad to worse. From being tossed about in the “waves and billows” and smothered by them, now he is drawn by their pressure into the deep; he is entangled in sea weed and moving toward the floor of the sea, when, the fish snatches him from the certain death of drowning, “Yet you brought up my life from the pit, O lord my God.”

Verses 7, 8 – As Jonah wrote this book, he remembered the profound sense of helplessness and absolute dependence on the Lord. He recognized how different was the state of those that knew only man-made gods. Elements of Psalm 28 seem to be in Jonah’s mind: ‘I become like those who go down to the pit;” (1)  “I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.” (2); or Psalm 30:3, “You have brought up my soul from Sheol; you have restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.” And verse 12: “that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”; or Psalm 69 “Save me O God! For the waters have come up to my neck . . . I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. . . . Let me be delivered from  the deep waters. . . .Let not the flood sweep over me. . . Let your salvation, O God, set me on high!” 1, 2,14-15, 29; Psalm 115:, 4 5: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes but do not see. . . . Those who make them become like them.” Jonah had recognized the wonder of divine grace in divine revelation and in intervention in the lives of sinners set on rebellion. Had God let him have his way, not only in this matter of the call to Assyria, but in his life overall, then he would be abandoned and would like the heathen “forsake their hope of steadfast love.” He now consented to do what God had told him “What I have vowed I will pay.”

verse 9 c; “Salvation is from the Lord”  Our destruction is of ourselves, but our salvation is of God. God does not just make salvation available, but he operates effectually to save. “Who saved us and called us with a holy calling . . . according to his own purpose and grace” )2 Timothy 1:9ff. “He saved us, . . . according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:5); We were sinking down, and left to our own strength and our own will and sinful inclination perishing was the sure thing. But He saved us, for “Salvation is of the Lord.”

The restoration   2:10

The Lord commanded – How do we perceive this command? How God commanded the fish, we are not told, but that the action of the fish was the result of the providential prompting  of God.

And It vomited Jonah – How do we perceive this obedience? Perhaps God caused the fish to become sick with this large living thing in its belly and obeyed the impulse of nature, but according to the time and arrangement of God.

The call reissued

The second call comes with the assurance that Jonah cannot escape:  We already know that Jonah is a true prophet, 2 Kings 14:25 [See last week’s discussion of his prophetic work prior to his call the Nineveh.]

The message will be given to Jonah when he gets there. “Call out against it the message that I tell you.”

The Success of the Means used with Nineveh

An Itinerant –  “Jonah began to go through the city” It appears that by the time he was one day’s journey into a city that was three days in  breadth, the message he had preached spread from house to house and section to section faster than Jonah himself could move..

Summary of the Message – 3:4  truth with little earnestness. Jonah preached the message of destruction. We are not led to believe that he urged any repentance. God will use his truth even at times with a half-hearted delivery. [cf. Phil 1:15-17]

Effect on Nineveh – compare Jeremiah 18:11, 12

The people believed the message – The text says  “The people of Nineveh believed God.” They did not cast away Jonah like Amaziah did Am,os. The heard his message as if from God and responded. Compare with Paul preaching to the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. 2:13.

Repentance began with the people in acts of humility – 3:5

The king joins with them and proclaims actions for repentance but also a change in conduct 3:6-8

He expresses this in hope;  – 3:9  This perhaps shows a knowledge of Israel’s own past and the pattern of judgment and deliverance: cf. 2 Chronicles 7:13, 14

God’s response

God Saw – He saw their deeds, they turned from their wicked way

God relented

III.  Jonah is Displeased  – Jonah 4:1

With God’s character – 2:2  This scene of repentance and forgiveness is exactly what Jonah did not want to see. H has revealed the reason for his futile flight from the presence of God. H really could not be contented with the idea that God was the God of al nations, the only God, and could also show compassion on others as had on Jonah himself. Jonah is like a spoiled child that cannot abide the vision of a parent showing tenderness and selfless love to a sibling.

With God’s Sovereignty – Though Jonah knew divine sovereignty quite well both from the side of just vengeance and tender mercies, he chafed under the sovereign display of God’s sending the message of repentance to Nineveh and his bringing about the redemption of that generation.

When Jesus opened his ministry in Nazareth, (Luke 4:16-30) he preached on the mercy of God to non-Jews and the sovereign prerogatives of the mercy of God. They sought to cast Jesus over the cliff for this. They did not learn the lesson of the book of Jonah.

IV.  Jonah Miscalculates

The character of Mercy

Its universal necessity – Does he not really think that Jew, as well as Gentile, stands in need of mercy?

Publican and Pharisee – Luke 18:9-17

Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:9-15

Parable of the workers – Matthew 20:1-15

That the display of mercy in the end is about God and not about us

punishment is the pure display of holy wrath

mercy and lovingkindness combine holy wrath in providing a sacrifice and a propitiation, wisdom in the perfect contrivance of a means to both merciful and just, and sovereign choice of those that are to receive the blessings thus contrived (1 Peter 2:6-10)

The Infinite Superiority of Salvific blessing to those of personal comfort

Jonah loved the growth and laments the demise of a plant “of a night”

Covets the destruction of a large city

We show the same misplaced value when we refuse difficult assignments or places for the glory of God and the spread of the gospel.

V. Truth extracted

The present certainty of judgment is implicit within the Gospel and explicitly the reason for existence;  The removal of threatened condemnation does not render God “changeable” but is consistent with his changelessness; Mal. 3:6

We are by nature children of wrath

He that believeth not is condemned already

He ordains that faith cometh by hearing, cf. Romans 10

Repentance is not a whim but, arising from both fear and remorse, detailed and cognitively organized:  Hosea 14:1-4; Malachi 3:7-12; 16

The repentance of one generation does not guarantee the safety of the next; see Nahum written app. 120 years later

That we have received mercy should make us, not restricted in compassion or impatient with sinners, but free purveyors of the gospel and patient toward all; cf. Titus 3:1-7

VI.  Summary of Theological Foundations in Jonah

Its typology –

1.  Luke 11:29-32; Matthew 12:39-42; 16:4 for Jonah as a type of Christ

2.  The sacrifice of Jonah for the sake of the ship and the sailors can be seen as a type of Christ. This should not be pushed very far, for Jonah was not the just for the unjust, but shows clearly that divine wrath must be propitiated

3. Again, the belly of the fish becomes the haven of rest from the storm of God’s wrath.  Like the ark to Noah and his family, so was the great fish’s belly to Jonah.

Doctrine of God


creation 1:9

providence 1:7

revelation 1:1

miraculous intervention 1:17

redemption 3



Omnipotence – 1:4, 14, 17; 4:6-8

Omniscience – 1:2, 7; 2:2

Omnipresence – 1:3, 4; 2:1


Wrathful – 1:4; 2:3; 3:4

Merciful – 2:6; 3:9, 10; 4:2

Compassionate – 4:2, 11

Governs the world for moral purposes



Nature – 1:15 cf John 6:16-20; Mark 3:38-41; 6:51;

man – 2:3

salvation – 2:9

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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